South Bend Community School Corporation Purdue
Polytechnic High School
What follows is a complete accounting of comments for the record regarding the establishment of this charter school. The hearing comments were poorly transcribed and are difficult to follow - except for Linda Wolfson's. Ms Wolfson cleverly supplied them a written copy of her remarks.
After the meeting comments, comments by email and letter follow.
Hearing held – South Bend November 21, 2019
Type Purdue Polytechnic High School – South Bend
1 in support, 3 in opposition. 3 minute limit
Laurie McGowan • I am opposed to this application for
many reasons. They have an unproven model, no graduates from their Indianapolis
school, the situation of the South Bend district, and the proposed referendum
upcoming. This seems like adding a risky venture. We are currently scrambling
to get our schools the way they are. The model in the application (authentic
learning, cognitive concepts) I’m fairly certain is already being applied in
our schools. We already have 20 CTE programs in SBCSC. This school could be
duplicating or possibly draining resources. I reviewed the application and
something that troubles me is the use of marketing speak. The one that gets me
is 21st Century skills. We are already 20 years in, this target student
population has not existed in any other century. I want more detail and more
data. I think this concept is great to talk about, a few years from now when we
have data, particularly from the schools already operating in Indy.
Todd Cummings, Superintendent South Bend Community School
• As South Bend Superintendent, on behalf of the SBCSC Board, I
am thrilled to report we are progressing toward a partnership with Purdue
Polytechnic. We are hoping this is one of the first Purdue Polytechnic High
Schools to enter into a partnership with.
• I reviewed the application online and
had some concerns. The application didn’t show a real understanding of the area
stating that all west side students feed into Washington, and that Washington
is a deficit. Washington is at a C average and students have choices to pick
from. The project based learning programs sound promising, but Riley High
School already offers those. Half of the grade is spent online testing, that
seems like a lot of computer time. I noticed their curriculum is being handled
by Edmentum. If you Google the, the only things that come up are items that
they have published. The application written can best be described as an
experimental program, the applicant’s current school has less than three years
if data and a small number of students. There is no way to predicate success
here. As a parent of a high school student I feel discomfort about this
application. It’s already underway in Indianapolis, but without data it is hard
to make a good decision.
Linda Wolfson • My name is Linda Wolfson. Thank you
for the opportunity to comment about the possible impact of the proposed Purdue
Polytechnic High School South Bend.
The views I will share have been developed
by important life experiences. I am the mother of children who were educated
within the South Bend Community School Corporation. I am a retired high school
teacher. I taught within the South Bend Community School Corporation.
was a second career for me. After completing a B.A. in Biology, I was employed
for more than 20 years in medical research laboratories, first at the
University of Pittsburgh and then at Georgetown University Hospital in
After the birth of my youngest child, I completed a Teacher
Certification Program at Bowie State College in Maryland. Subsequently, we
relocated to South Bend and I joined the Science faculty at John Adams High
Because of my experiences in research laboratories, my Principal at
Adams asked me to play a leading role in developing a Tech Prep program at
Adams. Tech Prep was a federally funded, inter-disciplinary program designed
for students who were underachieving in traditional classes. I used
project-based learning and incorporated exciting field trips to work sites
applying biological concepts and methods. Those were my most successful years
I believe that my employment experiences, especially my
involvement with the Tech Prep program, give me an important perspective with
which to evaluate the program of Purdue Polytechnic High School.
When I learned
about the possible Purdue Polytechnic High School, I was excited by its
possibilities. I thought I might be able to support it, despite the fact that
it is a charter school and I am a solid advocate for supporting and improving
the SBCSC. I read the application carefully, looking for the answers to two
key questions. How will it impact our school corporation and will it offer our
students opportunities that we can't provide?
Our school corporation lost 700
students last year to charter schools in South Bend, to surrounding school
districts, and to private schools benefiting from Indiana's voucher program.
That had a significant effect upon the amount of money that the Corporation
received from the State of Indiana. How could the loss of up to 100 students to
a new charter be good for our Corporation? It would not and therefore I cannot
support this application.
To be fair, the options provided by policies of the
Indiana State Legislature are not the only reason that parents choose other
than traditional public-school options for their children. For many years,
education activists in South Bend area identified problems that need to be
addressed in our local schools. Some problems have been or are being corrected.
I believe that others can and will be.
My second question, as I reviewed the
application, was whether Purdue Polytechnic would provide opportunities for our
students that we can't afford to pass up. I don't think so. We currently have a
medical magnet at Washington H.S., an engineering magnet at Riley High School,
more than 20 CTE (Community and Technical) programs that have the option of
earning dual credits at either Ivy Tech or Vincennes University, or earning
industry certifications in a technical and STEM-related fields.
for Purdue Polytechnic promises that it would serve as an "academic feeder
system for Purdue University." The expectation expressed is that "Out
of our initial class of 150 freshman students, we expect that over two-thirds
of them will meet the criteria to be admitted to Purdue University." The
application states that "students who meet the minimum targets of the SAT
or ACT will receive direct admittance to the Purdue Polytechnic Institute in
West Lafayette. Others will be admitted to one of 9 other campuses, one of
which is located in South Bend.
I believe in high expectations. However, I
cannot trust expectations without any supporting evidence. There are currently
two Purdue Polytechnic High Schools in Indianapolis. One is very new and,
according to news reports, is having difficulty recruiting students. The high
school located in the center of the City has not yet had time to graduate its
first class. We don't yet know if they have successfully met their promise to
serve as an academic feeder system for Purdue.
I don't believe in making what
could be empty promises, especially to our children. For these reasons, I
encourage you to deny the charter application for a Purdue Polytechnic High
School in South Bend.
0 in support, 7 in opposition
• South Bend high schools are losing
enrollment, they have seat space in their high schools for at least 2000
students. Adding another high school to SB is a waste of money and resources.
Also, PU Polytechnic in Indianapolis has not met their projections for
enrollment. What’s the proof SB would be different?
• Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed PPHS in South Bend.
I attended the 11/21 public meeting in South Bend. The 3- minute comment rule
was not announced anywhere in advance and some who had prepared remarks were
silenced by strict adherence to this rule, even though there were few in
attendance and the meeting was quite short.
For the sake of open and
transparent communication, I would like to suggest that ICSB consider and adopt
the following standards for future charter proposals (from the IPS Community
Coalition's Recommendations for Innovation Application and Approval Process):
Applications due at least 18 months prior to school year school will start as
charter. There must be at least 6 months of community meetings with a minimum
of 8 meetings before charter application can be approved by the district board.
At least 90 days prior to 1st board presentation, all applications must be available
in full for review on the district board website.
I am opposed to the proposed
PPHS charter in South Bend at this time for the following reasons:
students already have access to over 20 CTE programs that include team and
applied workplace learning. There is no analysis that identifies a specific
need for this program. It is a marketing effort in order to recruit minority
and low-income students into the Purdue Polytechnic Institute.
2. Neither of
the existing Purdue Polytechnic High Schools in Indianapolis has produced a
graduating class. There is not sufficient evidence that this model is effective
or efficient. SBCSC is already coping with fiscal shortfalls. It is imprudent
to add an unproven model to a system that is already stretched thin by budget
3. “Like many cities, an unacceptably small number of South Bend’s
students of color and students navigating poverty have the opportunity to
succeed in today’s workforce or pursue higher education. Despite their skills
and potential, many of these students attended high schools that currently do
not provide programs that support their success.” This kind of rhetoric is not
the substance one would expect to see in an application. PPHS wishes to justify
its entry here based on a faulty premise that SB high schools “do not provide
programs that support their success”. PPHS in South Bend is at this time
unneeded and unwanted. “PPHS South Bend will adopt a blending of secondary and
post-secondary education with an infusion of industry leadership and
participation. PPHS South Bend will utilize a rigorous STEM design-based
curriculum delivered in career-focused learning environment.” This is
4. The program overview is intriguing but
peer-reviewed studies that accurately describe and document successful outcomes
from the proposed model would be in order before taking action.
narrative implies that there is no project-based learning going on in SBCSC.
Several of the CTE programs employ this type of learning so the claim is
inaccurate. Further, both project-based- and problem-based-learning are
commonly taught instructional methods in today’s Schools of Education. Some
teachers are regularly applying these methods, though not in formal or
6. PPHS in Indianapolis has had difficulty in meeting
This gives the appearance that expansion into South Bend is an attempt to make
up for the deficit in Indianapolis. Unfortunate remarks by Mitch Daniels
recently went viral in the Twitterverse. Aside from the perceived racism, they
further lead one to believe that PPHS is a well-funded marketing effort to recruit
Pell Grant students to some Purdue programs. Commitment to the well-being of
the students and their successful educational outcomes is not evident.
Further, Daniels is already pivoting toward adult workforce education in his
remarks. As a South Bend community member, I am concerned that PPHS is just
another short-term revenue stream that would benefit stealth investors more
than it would enhance the educational experience of any potential South Bend
students. The local business supporters of the application were few and very
limited in representation of local industry. The application infers that there
will be agreements with additional Purdue schools but these are not yet
concrete. Similarly, there are no definite agreements with local industry for on-site
learning and/or internships. Indiana took a large hit (over $40 million) due to
the failure of the Indiana Virtual Academy. This, combined with other recent
charter school failures, indicates a greater need for stewardship of our scarce
educational resources. It is difficult to imagine that anyone with fiduciary or
other stewardship responsibility for public funds would agree to this charter
in its current unsubstantiated state. Certainly the stakeholders in South Bend
are not interested in offering their students’ valuable secondary educational
years for an unproven experiment.
7. The PPHS proposal ignores the NAACP’s
moratorium on charter school expansion.
Thank you in advance for your careful
consideration of these issues.
Don Wheeler • I am a 28 year resident of South Bend
and the father of a Junior at John Adams High School. I served as a Court
Appointed Special Advocate for children for about seven years. I have also
volunteered as a mentor in the South Bend Community School Corporation. As my daughter
approached school age I began to look deeply into public education and
attendant issues nationwide. I am also quite familiar with the operations of
our local schools and have written quite a bit about that. I am currently a
member of the Finance Committee of the recently formed west side Empowerment
South Bend had the first Indiana Charter School – Veritas Academy. It and
the later Xavier Academy both were ultimately unsuccessful. There is one K-12
Charter company in operation currently – seemingly ignored in the application
you are considering.
The applicant indicates its need for being is to help a
“target student population” of “underrepresented minority students” -
particularly west side residents. It goes on to say that this group is fed on to
Washington High School and implies (without detail) that Washington is in some
way defective. In South Bend, any High School student can choose to attend any
of the four High Schools with provided transportation. And as the applicant
acknowledges, Washington’s most recent state grade was a C. Average.
I do know
from my time as a CASA and having lived here 28 years, students in this group
often suffer from deficits in reading and writing skills. Without rectifying
those issues, any learning will be difficult. The application offers no
awareness of this problem, let alone any strategy to address it.
The part of
their approach they spend the most time explaining sounds pretty similar to
Project Based learning programs which failed at the short-lived New Tech High
School here. It is now the focus of a magnet program at Jackson Middle School,
where perhaps it will do better. That component also includes working in a
local business. While I don’t dispute that these internships (as they refer to
them) would have value, they would also seem likely to be a handful to manage –
given the necessarily small staff of a school of 100 students per grade level.
Recruiting worthy businesses and monitoring these situations for each student
would seem to require a significant investment in time.
The other 50% of
students’ grades come from online testing via Edmentum. The implication is that
students will spend half of their time “e-learning”. Online K12 education has a
dubious record generally. And the problem with researching Edmentum on a Google
search is that they wrote almost everything that appears in the results. Most
of that is about how much money they raise or make. Not helpful. And if this
program is aimed at a group with struggling readers, what is the likely efficacy
of online self-education for a student with poor reading/comprehension skills?
That isn’t explained.
Perplexingly, the program they offer also requires
students to make a lifetime career decision in the 10th grade, with scheduled
reaffirmations. How many people do you know who felt capable of making that
decision at age 15? And of that group, for how many did that actually work
Reviewing the course list, one discovers very narrow offerings. No team
sports. No arts instruction of any kind. No dance, theater, visual arts, vocal
music, instrumental music – in fact, nothing inviting individual creativity at
all. Public education aspires to help our children grow into informed,
productive, and at least reasonably comfortable citizens.
Programs such as these
are designed to produce workers for a specific industry, and nothing more. In
fact, they reveal that their long term objective is to create a nation-wide
network of “Charter Schools that will serve as an academic feeder system to
But even if you think all that is OK, the application is
written as though the applicant has decades of experience, fabulous test scores
to tout, hundreds of graduates, and alums with high paying, rewarding careers.
The reality is that it has had less than three years of experience, no
graduates, and only one testing experience involving a very small number of
students. It has had difficulty with the same enrollment goals in a much bigger
city than South Bend. A
t this point, it can best be described as an experimental
program. I’ll confess to some discomfort with placing our children in the
position of guinea pigs in this experiment. The experiment is already under way
in Indianapolis. I think that we should allow enough time to evaluate the
results before endorsing an expansion. It’s hard to make good decisions without
Cathy Fuentes – Rohwer
• I have deep concerns about
expanding Purdue Poly to South Bend when they clearly have not fulfilled their
enrollment or promise in Indy. The responsible thing to do would be to see that
the school in Indy has fulfilled its promises first before further expansion.
We also really should consider what opening another school via a charter--and
thus spreading even thinner the limited resources for South Bend public schools---
would do to those public schools that are already struggling. Please vote 'no'
on Purdue Poly. Thanks for your consideration.
• Please consider a full stop on
approving more school applications at a time when Indiana is not able to fully
fund the schools it has. Thank you.
Dakota Hudelson • I ask that you vote against
allowing Purdue Poly to South Bend. It hasn’t fulfilled its enrollment promise
in Indianapolis. Furthermore, the expansion of charter schools into any
community destabilizes the local public schools, and the impact can be
• I also have deep concerns about expanding Purdue
Poly to South Bend. They clearly have not fulfilled their enrollment or promise
in Indy. The responsible thing to to do would be to see that the school in Indy
has fulfilled its promises first before further expansion. We also really
should consider how opening another school via a charter in South Bend--and
thus spreading even thinner the limited resources for South Bend public
schools- --would impact those public schools that are already struggling.
Please vote 'no' on Purdue Poly.
Letters 1 in opposition
Dalila Huerta • I am writing to you today to express
my disapproval of the proposed Purdue Polytechnic High School South Bend (PPHS
South Bend). I am appalled that our local district superintendent, Dr. Todd
Cummings, is in full support of this charter school, and urge you to consider
why you should NOT approve the PPHS South Bend’s presence in our community.
begin, I question the application’s insistence that there exists a need for a
STEM-based charter school in our community (p. 2), particularly to recruit our
West side students. Perhaps the charter applicants are unaware and/or have
failed to conduct appropriate community research, but the South Bend Community
School Corporation already offers Project Lead the Way (PLTW), Career and
Technical Education (CTE), and Medical and Engineering Magnet programs
throughout its district.
While the Southeast neighborhood Riley High School is
the dedicated STEM-focused school, ALL students from our district are eligible
to apply. Therefore, West side students already have access to a high-quality
STEM program, making PPHS South Bend a redundant effort. Additionally, and
perhaps more importantly, I reject the application’s claim that PPHS South Bend
will be well equipped to provide an adequate education for its target
population of “underrepresented minority students” as it never lists ANY
evidence of cultural competency training in its proposal.
The Evidence of
Capacity for the School Governance (p. 8) lists experience in the areas of
school leadership and administration governance; curriculum, instruction, and
assessment; financial business HR; performance management; parent and community
engagement; facilities management; and legal compliance only––no mention of
cultural competency, educational equity, or implicit bias training present.
listed qualifications for the future school principal (p. 10) likewise neglect
to include cultural competency training as a basic requirement. Furthermore,
while the application mentions that “[p]rior to charter authorization, the
school leader will work closely with community organizations” (pp. 42–43), no
such evidence of collaboration is found in the application outside of
How will this school be equipped to oversee culturally
responsive education for our students given this lacking set of skills and
priorities and nonexistent community connections? Additionally, mentions of
being a “restorative” school (p. 40) are undermined by the pitiful list of
professional development opportunities offered before and AFTER the school
Any worthwhile education professional would be insulted by the meager
one-time training in Restorative Practices, Trauma-Informed care, and Mental
Health First Aid that the proposed schedule offers (pp. 52–53). These are not
things you can learn in a single workshop or even a full day, but the careless
treatment of crucial educational competencies belies the fact that these
leaders are not and will not be well equipped to equitably meet the needs of
Educational equity is NOT attained by simply modeling “diversity”
and “respect,” or only through “positive interactions,” or merely understanding
cultural differences as the application implies on pages 28–29––a fact made
glaringly obvious by the authors’ misappropriated use of the culturally and
religiously significant term “Dojo” throughout the application. Is this the
type of school our community should trust? Where are the extensive trainings on
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), implicit bias, anti-racism, and cultural
As a Restorative Justice Circle keeper and trainer, cultural
educator, and parent, I am horrified that anyone would be asked to entrust
their child to the care and “mentoring” of educators who have not received
adequate training, or to leaders who deem these skills and competencies to be
unimportant and unnecessary.
The fact the PPHS South Bend students would earn
admittance to Purdue University only furthers my concern and amplifies the
harmful environment to which we would subject our students. Recruiting students
for the sake of “diversity” does not lead to equitable outcomes, but only
exposes our students to further racial violence and stress.
I do not wish for
our South Bend students to be treated as “rare creatures” in this charter
school or in the future at Purdue University, and I sincerely hope that you use
your power to ensure that our students are not mistreated at the hands of
ill-equipped educators and leaders. These highlighted issues are certainly
issues that can be addressed and even perhaps rectified with dedicated time and
effort, but I would never trust an organization who does not prioritize the
cultural wellbeing of its students and community from the beginning to be able
to carry out the immense work of educational equity.
Please do not allow PPHS
South Bend to cause further harm to our students and please oppose the opening
of a new ill-equipped charter school in our community.